The Ultimate Study Guide for the JLPT show

The Ultimate Study Guide for the JLPT

Summary: The JLPT Boot Camp podcast covers tips and tricks for the JLPT or Japanese Language Proficiency Test. Every week I go over a different aspect of how to study and what to do for the test. I cover all the tests, N5, N4, N3, N2, and N1.


 JLPT BC 82 | Creating Memory Hooks | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 16:56

It's been a busy time for me of late.  Busy time at work, busy time at home.  The school year in Japan starts in April and so I have new students to meet and classes to get used to.  I'm obviously adjusting to my new life at home as well.  I'm finding it harder and harder to really schedule things. My main focus right now is to absorb as much vocabulary as I possibly can.  That involves a lot of vocabulary drilling with my trusty side kicks, memrise and StickyStudy.  I have been able to really make a lot of progress with memrise.  I'm currently learning around 20 wors a day, but StickyStudy has been starting to get less time because I have less standing around time. I do want to get in a practice test sometime this month so that I have a clearer picture of what my weaknesses are for the test.  I already have a general idea that I'm going to have a lot of weaknesses across the board.  The main one is going to be just an utter lack of the sheer quantity of vocabulary that you have to study for the main test. A Memory Problem When you go to remember a new word a grammar point there is a lot to put in your head.  For vocabulary words, you not only have to remember the meaning or general sense of the word, but you also have to know the collocations, usage information, what part of speech it is, etc... There is a lot to know and the test will most likely cover every little aspect of it. A lot of times if you try to cram all this in at once, it is liable to simply fall right out of your head.  This is especially true for grammar I feel.  It usually takes me good two or three sweeps through a grammar book to really grasp it and be able to use it naturally.  When I first started studying for the test, I would always try to internalize everything in one go, and that is simply not possible. Regular Tactics Don't Seem to Work When going to remember some of the trickier vocabulary words or grammar points the regular methods you use to remember Japanese often don't seem to work.  If there is a short phrase to remember with out too many nuances to it than you can easily build up a link in your head.  For example, it is pretty easy to remember that ねこ means cat.  It is a pretty short word and we can pretty easily visualize a cat. However if you take a word like 作戦 (sakusen), it becomes a little bit more difficult.  This word has a basic meaning of strategy, but it can also be used to mean operation, like a bombing operation. Now, those two senses are very similar, but they are different, and it is hard to remember those both the first time you see the word. Often times you can use a clever mnemonic to help you remember a particularly stubborn word, but what about grammar points?  It is pretty difficult to break a grammar point down into small enough pieces to build a mnemonic out of it. Or what about one of my other tried and true tactics?  Saying everything out loud?  This can help in a lot of ways, especially if you have some example sentences to work with, but it won't solve all your problems.  And some grammar points or vocabulary words are simply too unwieldy. Create a Memory Hook Since all of this is too difficult to remember the first time you see it, it is best to create a smaller link to start off.  The simpler the better with this one.  You don't want to stuff too much information onto that link at first. I like to call these links “memory hooks” because they act like little hooks that you can link more information on to later.  Once you have that initial bond created in your head, you can add on more and more information later when you review to further expand your understand of the word or grammar point. So don't try to bit everything off at once.  Try to keep it to a minimum.  A lot of times, I'll see these huge decks in Anki that contain 6 or more definitions for a single word in Japanese.  Although the Japanese word may very well mean all those things when used in different contexts,

 JLPT BC 81 | Make it your Own | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 10:55

All right, I think it is safe to admit it now. I'm starting to get a little nervous about taking the N1 exam. I know I said I was okay with failing it, but still I want to be able to at least have a decent showing on test day, something to be proud of that I can at least show off. The closer July comes, the more I feel like that might not happen this time. I guess it really hit me when I picked up the So-Matome N1 Listening Book and started leafing through it. There is a lot of stuff in there that I simply haven't heard before. I'm going to be doing a lot of listening from here on out just so that I can make a showing in the listening section. I'm starting to get really curious to see how well I can do, and how much of an improvement I can manage. This is all coupled with all of my new responsibilities as a dad. My little daughter loves to not sleep. It seems like it is her favorite thing to do in the whole wide world as a matter of fact. I'm personally in the I love sleep camp. It is a lot more fun in that camp, but I haven't been able to persuade my daughter of that, YET. Make it your Own If you crack open your typical JLPT drill book you'll see a ton of example sentences to help you understand the different grammar points. Textbook authors, in general, try to give a very representative example of the type of sentences that use a particular grammar point and for the most part they do that job pretty well. But, a lot of the sentences are really, well, boring. They are pretty vanilla stuff. One of the reasons for this is that the JLPT, by design, is suppose to test over Japanese used in everyday conversation. This limits the scope of the vocabulary and topics that come up on the test to smaller band of things. This is a good thing. It follows the comprehensible input principle of language learning, which is that in order to learn a language, you should be absorbing content in the target language that is just above your level. Just difficult enough that you can follow along and learn a few new things because you understand just enough of the other content. To really Learn it, you DO have to Use it Those vanilla sentences are great for demonstrating the meaning of the grammar point or vocabulary, but will they help you to be able to remember it? For me, a lot of these meanings just roll on out for me. It has a really hard time sticking, and I feel like I study a lot repeating the sentences over and over again for on real gain. Since the sentences often don't pertain to me, or are about a subject I'm not exactly jumping up and down to read about, they don't stick. It can also be incredibly boring to go through as well, which tends to slow down or even stop your studying. How do you solve this problem? How do you put an end to the monotony? There is actually a pretty simple solution for this one. Start Experimenting with it In my experience, you really need to make a particular grammar point your own. Make example sentences about you and your life. Don't put up with some vanilla sentences to help you remember the grammar, write something that will actually help you. And once you come up with that sentence, make sure you get it checked. Then, make that darn thing your anthem for the day. Try to apply it everything you possible can. When you have a few free moments in the day try to recall it back up again. Really focus on that stubborn grammar point if it won't stick in your head. How Active are you? Do you re-write the grammar sentences or just leave them be? Have you ever come up with some real funny or comical sentences to help you remember a particular point? I'd love to hear them in the comments below. Photo by Wonker

 JLPT BC 80 | N2 Grammar – tutu | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 23:22

I've recently been using a little different strategy for my vocabulary practice.  I think for the N1 level, since there are literally thousands of words to learn, I've been hedging my bets between reviewing words from the books I've read and using the standard lists.  I think this offers up a good compromise between natural learning and list learning. I think a lot of people focus too much on the infamous lists.  I certainly did when I first started preparing for the N2, but I think the test has changed a bit because they no longer have an official vocabulary list for each level.  Since they no longer have this restriction they can theoretically put any word they want to on the test.  Which makes studying only the lists a little dangerous. The other problem is that if you just study a bunch of lists the vocabulary has no context.  It means something, but it doesn't mean anything to you if that makes any sense.  Since you haven't experienced it personally I think it is hard to use it naturally or to understand how it is used.  And what is the point of learning a bunch of vocabulary if you can't really use it and don't have a clear understanding of the word when you are reading? In the same sense, if you simply add words that you have only experienced you might not learn all the words you need to know for the test, so it is good to study the lists a little bit. N2 Grammar - つつ The grammar point つつ can be used in two different ways in Japanese as a conjunction and as a auxiliary verb.  Both of these uses have their nuances though of course and are used in very different circumstances.  They are also confused with several other grammar points that have different meanings, but could be used in similar situations - things like ばかりだ、最中に or としている. This week I continue the popular series on tricky JLPT grammar points and go over somethings to look out for on the JLPT.  Find out what the differences are between some of these difficult grammar points so that you can increase your chances of passing the JLPT.  Don't forget to sign up for the newsletter if you haven't already so that you can pick up the free newsletter-exclusive PDF that goes over this grammar point in detail as well as tests with some practice questions. Put it to Use After you've given the podcast a listen, put your new found knowledge to use.  Give this grammar point a try in the comments below.  This is a great way to lock in your knowledge and test your understanding of the grammar.  Also, it'll help your fellow JLPTers with some more examples of what the grammar point is like.

 JLPT BC 79 | Giving Birth in Japan | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 14:43

I'm currently on the look out for a good new jDrama to watch. I just finished off Nagareboshi, which I talked about last week, but I want to watch something new now that has a lot of everyday Japanese in it. This can sometimes be more difficult than it sounds. I recently tried Gakusen, which is supposed to be a great drama. The main issue I have with it is that it is based off a manga so the entire style of the drama is very exaggerated and cartoon-y. I think this would be interesting if that is what you want to study, but if you want to focus on more serious language like what is on the JLPT it is not really the best choice. First off, it is full of slangy choppy dialog. The characters make short quips to each other that are mumbled and a bit hard to pick up. This makes it difficult for me to practice listening. Also, it seems like they are using a lot of high school slang, which isn't really useful to me on any level. I don't do a lot of talking to high schoolers these days (at least in Japanese). The other problem with the drama is that the characters are completely unrealistic. This is, of course because they are suppose to be caricatures based on the manga. That would make the drama a really interesting TV show to watch, but maybe not the best choice for something to watch if you are studying. Anyway, I've stopped watching it for now in favor of something a bit more useful. Giving Birth in Japan As you might know, about a month ago, my daughter was born. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget full of highs and boring moments. Everything changes once there is a baby in your life, and I'm starting to understand that whole saying “You'll understand when you have children of your own.” But, it was also an interesting opportunity to speak Japanese. I was forced to try to do my best to understand from the nurses what was going on because I couldn't rely on my wife to translate for me. These types of situations are always the best to learn anything, because it forces you into a do or die moment and you end up learning a lot. I certainly learned a lot about what all goes into having a baby as well as the specialized vocabulary that goes along with it. One thing about the JLPT is that even though the highest level covers some 18,000+ words, that certainly is not the entire language. There are plenty of extra vocabulary words out there that you still can learn. Differences from America Japan has some noticeable differences between how they do things and how America does things. One big noticeable difference is that the hospital stay is a lot longer. In most cases in Japan, the stay at the hospital or clinic is somewhere around a week compared to about a day or two after birth in the States. This extra time is not just for relaxing though. The nurses taught her how to do all sorts of stuff and to top it all off she got a aromatherapy massage to help her relax. The food was also amazing and she got a nice little private room with a DVD player, electric kettle and the works. Another big difference is that there wasn't a month (or more) long birthing or Lamaze class. It was actually just one class where they went over everything with us. It was still pretty entertaining. At the beginning of the class the nurse asked for volunteers who wanted to wear an empathy belly. Of course, no one volunteer so she started strongly suggesting to a few men to wear one, who eventually caved in. Yes, I wussed out. She got me back however when she told me to get up on the delivery table in the delivery room in front of the whole class. That's the kind of stuff you come to Japan for, the cultural experiences. Going Back to Mom's House Mothers in Japan typically go back to their mom's house for the first month after having a baby. This is so their mother can take care of them while they are resting and recovering. Also help do things like care for the baby and cook meals.

 JLPT BC 78 | N3 Grammar – the use of totanni | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 21:33

I'm starting to really put some pressure on myself to study these days.  The July test is coming soon and although I have no real aspirations of passing it, I still want to at least score slightly above zero on the test.  I still have a lot to go through before I even have a good foundation in place though. I have finally made to the 25% mark with StickyStudy. Even though I'm a bit suspect of some of the words in its list, I really like the pacing and design of the whole app.  I, of course, am backing this up with plenty of words from reading on memrise.  I've managed to crack the top 200 over at the site, and I'm sure I'll keep climbing the charts because I need to get as much vocab in my head as possible. I'm starting to make pretty good progress with ほぼ日.  I can usually get through 5 or 6 pages a day.  That doesn't sound like much I know but it is a lot better than I was doing when I first started.  Again, I'm looking forward to reading something with a little bit more of a flow.  ほぼ日 has great examples of the kind of stuff you see on the test, but it is a bit difficult to stay focused on. Finished off Nagareboshi, which is a pretty good jDrama for studying.  It contains a lot of daily conversation language and expressions.  Although the story is pretty typical – a man's sister will die if she doesn't get a new liver, so he contracts a woman to marry him so she can donate her liver.  Like any  jDrama there are bumps and rough spots along the way of course. N3 Grammar – とたんに – 'as soon as' This week I go over all the details you need to know about とたんに a Japanese adverb that basically means 'as soon as'.  Of course, it isn't just that simple.  There are a few other grammar points that share similar meanings, but are used differently, some of them include 次第, ついでに, and 以来. I'll give you the scoop on what to look out for and what the differences are between these different grammar points in this week's podcast.  Be sure to sign up for the newsletter so that you can pick up the cheat sheets that I send out whenever I do a podcast like this.  If you missed out this time, I'll be doing these types of podcasts on a regular basis, so if you sign up you won't miss out again. Give it a Try! I'd love to hear your examples of some sentences using とたんに, give it a try in the comments below.

 JLPT BC 77 | Variety is the Spice of Life | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 19:45

I'm more than half way through ほぼ日刊イトイ新聞の本 (230/350 pages) and things are getting a lot smoother.  I'm really able to pick up and understand a lot more.  There are the occasional chapters that I get really messed up about, but one strategy that I've started to adopt more and more is try to push my way through the entire essay.  Then, go back and re-read it a slower after I've looked up all the words I don't know and I've read through the entire thing.  Usually during this second time through things tend to snap into focus. I'm actually looking forward to finishing this book off and moving on to focusing more on the N1 grammar that I need to know.  I'll probably be doing that while I'm reading another novel, hopefully something a little more fun to read like Harry Potter or something.  I want to get through all the N1 grammar at least once before I make a valiant effort for the N1 in July. I'm also still working my way through StickyStudy for iPhone.  If you are interested in picking up this app, I created a video that reviews StickyStudy for iPhone that you might want to check out.  At first, I thought it didn't re-test words that you mastered, but it does, it just does it a lot later than I expected it would.  Still probably the most aesthetically-pleasing flashcard app in iTunes at the moment. Variety is the Spice of Life Some people have a tried and true way of studying.  You might drill words to death on, read manga like it is going out of style, or shift through thousands of sentences in Anki.  Chances are if you have reached an advanced level in your studies you have tried several different kinds of study methods in order to come up with what interests you and what helps you recall the most stuff. I'm starting to realize though that if you just focus on one particular source for learning, there are some drawbacks to this.  You can't really rely on one resource to get you everything you need.  For example, reading manga is great, but in realty reading manga a lot helps you get better at reading manga. Proof The book I'm reading now, ほぼ日刊イトイ新聞の本, is a great source of essays and musings from Mr. Itoi.  It contains a lot of writings that are similar to the kinds of essays you see on the tests.  But, I'm starting to see some of the same words being repeated.  This isn't so bad actually because I get to naturally review their meanings in context, but I also feel like I should try out a different author later. Another example of this is when I went to the clinic when my wife was having a baby recently.  I could get a basic idea of what everyone was saying, but needed to look up a lot of extra vocabulary.  Also, just the phrasing of what the nurses were saying and asking me was a little unfamiliar to me.  Overall, it was of course an amazing experience (having a baby) and a good learning opportunity as well because I was extremely motivated to know what the heck they were talking about. The JLPT is good in the respect that it forces you to spread out your learning.  You can' simply watch jDramas all day and expect to pass the test.  You have to spread out and hone your skills in order to have a chance of passing the higher levels.  In this way, it pretty much prepares you for anything that is going to come your way. How to Add some Spice My current philosophy is that the minute you start getting really comfortable with a particular source of material is the minute you should start thinking about changing to something else.  I'm starting to see this with ほぼ日.  It is getting easier and easier and so maybe it is time to branch off and do something else more challenging. It's good to challenge yourself with something even if it seems next to impossible at first.  This is especially true if you are at a higher level (N3+).  Try to take on some material that almost seems next to impossible.  This is the best way, in my opinion, to smash through plateaus you might run into from time to time.

 JLPT BC 76 | N4 Grammar – the Japanese particle ka | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 15:49

We are just heading out of the cherry blossom season here in Japan.  This is where everyone gets to cure their cabin fever by going out to the park to have a few drinks.  I personally am starting to love the spring weather and the fact that I don't have to bundle up to go outside or wake up to a cold room.  If you are in Japan I hope you got to go out and celebrate the beautiful weather. For my studies, I'm maintaining the same routine, although to tell you the truth I'd like to move on to something a little more with a story than ほぼ日刊イトイ新聞の本.  There has been more than a few times that I've caught myself nodding off while trying to read that book.  I think with a novel at least there is a story that you can follow and you want to know the ending to.  But, with Mr. Itoi's book it almost sometimes seems to be random thoughts that he writes about. I have found myself getting really competitive over at  It is really fun to try to rack up as many points as you can as you play against other learners.  It's crazy, but I'm nearing the 1 million points mark soon.  I wonder if I can ever make the top 100.  Anyway, it is definitely a motivating way to keep studying. N4 Grammar - The Japanese Particle ka My last podcast on the grammar particle kurai/gurai was a roaring success.  I got an incredible amount of readers and the guide for that episode got a ton of downloads, so I figured I'd continue the series this week with some N4 level grammar.  This week I'm going over the Japanese particle ka and specifically how it is used in embedded questions.  I'll also be going over かどうか and some things to look out for with that particle grammar point. Don't miss out on the guide though!  If you haven't already, be sure to sign up for my newsletter to get the full guide delivered right to you.  It's packed with examples, explanations and a few sample questions to help you prepare for the exam. Give the Japanese Particle ka a Try! Can you write a sentence with an embedded question? or one using かどうか? Give it a try in the comments below and I'll double check it for you.

 JLPT BC 75 | N1 First Impressions | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 11:13

I'm starting to make steady progress toward my goal of N1. I'm trying to chew threw as many vocabulary words as I possibly can as I make my way through the sheer volume of vocabulary that you have to know in order to pass. I'm still primarily using StickyStudy's N1 list and I'm making pretty good progress so far (currently at 18%). What is really refreshing is that about half the words I don't know in Mr. Itoi's  ほぼ are words that are on the N1 list. This seems to bust the myth about N1 containing only useless vocabulary that is often not used. There actually numerous words that have come in handy from the list that I found in the book. I have also finally broken down and started my N1 book buying. Whenever I prep for a certain level this seems to become an ongoing affair where I'll first start off with a grammar book or two and then simply keep buying a new book every 2 months or so until I finally pass the test. I feel like for the N1 level, I'm going to be doing much the same thing. N1 First Impressions When I first starting taking the JLPT, I never thought I would make it to the N1 level. It just seemed to be that big pie in the sky dream that I would never achieve. Or I would need to major in Japanese in order to reach such a goal. But, here I am taking the first steps toward trying to absorb the vocabulary I need. I starting to realize though that the N1 is pretty much any level of the test. You just have to digest the material, go over it and drill it until you know it by heart. And it is exciting at the beginning of this process because you are absorbing so much new material and discovering new ways to say things. I also get to try out different techniques to see what helps me to retain the information the best. In this episode, I thought I would go over my early impressions of what the N1 material is like. I'm finding out that passing the N1, isn't as bad as most people think it is. It's definitely going to be hard, but it is definitely going to be manageable. N1 Vocabulary Impressions Some of the N1 vocabulary I've picked up before in my reading of native materials. This is great validation for all the hard work you have to put in to read through a book. It is also such a great feeling to encounter a word that you have seen before. Because you can just skip over it and not have to deal with all the hard work of learning the word. Some of the N1 vocabulary appear to be what we would call in English 'phrasal verbs' or 'two-part verbs'. Basically verbs made of two words like 'pick up' or 'turn off'. In Japanese, these come in the form a verb that is two verbs glued together. One I encounter the other day is うけいれる or 受け入れる. You might recognize the first part as 受ける – to receive, and the second part as 入れる – to put in. Together, these two verbs make one verb 受け入れる, which has a basic meaning of 'to accept', but this meaning is more like to accept something mentally (like a truth or someone's values) more than a physical object. I fear that it is going to be these small little nuances that the test will drag out and test us over, but hopefully with plenty of reading practice and a good amount of vocabulary drilling I can sail through these tricky vocabulary words. One relief is that there are a lot of katakana words for the N1 level. I guess these are introduce at this level because they aren't used so much and would be considered difficult for non-English speakers. For English speakers of course this seems to be a free pass. Woo Hoo! N1 Grammar Impressions N1 grammar doesn't seem to be too alien so far. There are a lot of expressions that use particles that are pretty familiar, things like ぐらい, こそ、まで... but assembled together in more complex ways. A lot of these phrases can be replaced by other simpler phrases, but the N1 phrases are stiffer and more formal sounding. There appears to be a significant amount of written only grammar and not a lot of new spoken grammar.

 JLPT BC 74 | Interview with Andrew | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 16:44

It is April, and it is time to start thinking about whether you want to take the July JLPT. If the test is being held in your country this July, the applications are probably out and available for you to pick up. I know they have started popping up here in Japan. I need to pick one up and apply for the big N1 and see how badly I fail. You can check to see if the test is being held in your country at the official JLPT website. Keep in mind though that this isn't always completely up to date so you might want to double check with the institution that puts on the test in your country to see if they are putting on the test. Interview with Andrew This week, I'm doing something a little different. You asked for interviews with your fellow test takers, and I'm finally going to deliver on that request. We have a very special interview with a fellow test taker that is currently living and working Japan down in Hiroshima. Andrew passed the N2 in 2010 and tried for the N1 in 2011, but didn't make it. I talked to him recently about what he does to study and his personal recommendations on how to prepare for the JLPT. We went over how he studied for the N1 and some good tips on how to absorb all the kanji that is required for the N1. Be sure to give it a listen and tell me your thoughts in the comments below. I'll be back next week with some more great information to help you pass the test! Music by Kevin MacLeod

 JLPT BC 73 | N5 Grammar – kurai/gurai | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 16:54

It's been another fine week studying for the N1 test.  I was still slowly working my way through ほぼ日刊イトイ新聞の本.  So far, it is pretty good.  It is a basically story about how he setup his website and how it became really popular and some musings on that.  The reading is getting easier and easier. For vocabulary, I've been sticking with StickyStudy (haha).  They did a major update to the app that makes it even more beautiful than before and makes the interface a lot slicker and faster.  One thing I started doing this week is slowly putting in N1 grammar points.  I just picked up So-Matome N1 Grammar book and I'm starting through it slowly.  I'm going to try to put in all the grammar points to StickyStudy for study mostly because I want something more portable and easy to just whip out and start studying with. Other big event that happened recently is the release of Japanese support for Siri.  If you not familiar with Siri, she is the new virtual assistant built into the iPhone 4S.  Overall, Siri isn't the best thing in the world.  She is still pretty basic, but with the addition of voice support for Japanese, it has become an incredibly useful tool to check my pronunciation with, which is pretty bad to tell you the truth.  I've been doing a lot of speaking in Japanese lately and it has started to improve, but I can honestly say my reading and listening skills are a lot better. :) The Japanese Particle Kurai/Gurai For this podcast, I'm going to try to do something a little different, so bear with me.  I'm going to give the Japanese lesson thing one more try, but this time it is going to be a little different.  In the podcast, I go over the grammar particle kurai/gurai and its uses.  For those of you that are signed up for the newsletter, you'll get a handy little pdf that has all the information I went over in the podcast as well as some extra sample sentences and information. As always, I'd like to hear your feedback on the new format and if it is helpful for you or not.  What I'll probably do is cycle through the levels each week with a different topic. Is this a Clever Ploy to Get Us to Sign Up for your Newsletter? Well, kind of, I wanted to give something a little extra to those that have signed up for my newsletter.  So, now the newsletter will have a few extra goodies that you can't get anywhere else.  And just as before, I'll never spam you with unwanted offers and general junk.  Just the good stuff. Can you use kurai/gurai? Give this grammar point a try in the comments and I'll give it a look.  Hope to hear from you soon! Music by Kevin MacLeod

 JLPT BC 72 | Culture has to be Absorbed | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 23:10

So, I have been making slow but steady progress with Mr. Itoi's book. I'm on about page 147 and reading around 3 to 4 pages a day. To tell the truth, I'm getting a bit impatient with it. I prefer stories a lot better. I like to read something that flows. But, the book is still pretty good, it talks about how and why he created his website and since I've done my fair share of website creating it's getting pretty interesting. I have also been making my way through the N1 list of vocabulary on StickyStudy: Japanese, which is essentially a very pretty flashcard app. I'm at about 10% so far. I've been coming across a lot of words that I'm a little familiar with so it hasn't been as difficult as I thought. I always had this image in my mind that N1 vocabulary will be unbelievably difficult, but it is turning out to pretty simple really, just a matter of practice. I just stumbled upon a iPhone app called Vocre, that just recently became free. It is essentially a voice translator that you can use for several languages. One of the available options is Japanese, so I've been toying with that. The machine translation is of course utterly laughable for everything but the simplest of phrases, but it is good practice for your pronunciation. I'll try to get a video out about it. You have to Absorb Culture not Learn It Before I came to Japan, I did a lot of reading about what Japanese culture was like. I had a couple of books written by so-called experts on Japanese culture. I thoroughly read any book I could get my hands on that dealt with Japanese culture. I even waded through a 1000 page book about the modern history of Japan, which was actually quite useful for understanding modern Japanese history. It took me forever to get through the book, but I made it. And now I'm actually quite glad I took the time to read through all that because I have a much deeper understanding of all the places I visit. In general, I just wanted to be prepared for Japan. I didn't want to end up being that guy that is incredibly rude and does absolutely everything they are not supposed to. In other words the dirty American or dumb foreigner stereotype. But, Japanese Culture is Different But, I quickly found out that Japanese culture really isn't anything like what was described in my books or the headlines you see. It definitely wasn't what I thought it was. Now, first off, I live in Kyoto, which is pretty thick with culture for obvious reasons. And just a stone's throw away is Osaka. Both of these places have pretty distinct cultures. That doesn't really seem all that likely given that they are basically one big interconnected city area. There is a strip of suburbia that connects the two. These two cities are nothing like what I read about in my books. Kyoto is obviously rather traditional, most people have exceptional manners and everyone seems to love to drink gallons of coffee every day. This is compared to Osaka, where people considered a red don't walk light as a warning to look both ways before crossing; where people love to eat; and occasionally throw Colonel Sanders in the river for fun. Obviously not the picture of Japan I had in my mind before I came here. I read that people in Japan never hold hands or kiss in public, which they do, maybe not as much as say, people in some European countries, but they do. I was also told that people were always on time. My Japanese professor told me once that Japanese people almost always arrive 15 minutes before every appointment and patiently wait until the appointed time to meet with people. I don't know any of my students (young and old) that have always matched this stereotype. Some people can come as late as 15 minutes to an hour long class. Come to Japan If you have a strong interest in learning the Japanese language, which if you are taking the test you probably do, then you should strongly consider coming to see Japan for at least one visit.

 JLPT BC 71 | Going on Man Dates | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 18:49

I have finally given in to doing a little bit of studying for the N1. I've started to try to absorb as much of the vocabulary I can on a daily basis. I know that is going to be the most time consuming part of the whole studying process, so I want to get started early, working my way through the vocabulary list for that level, especially, if it suppose to be somewhere around 18,000 words. That's still pretty hard to believe though! I am at about page 115 of the Itoi book. I seem to be averaging about 50/50 with it. That is, about 50% of the articles I can understand fairly well, the other 50% I really struggle to make heads or tails of. I usually have to look up a lot of words, and even then I'll usually end up asking a native for clarification. I am already at about 7% of the N1 list on Sticky Study for iPhone. I really like the look and feel of the app, but there are a few features of it that I'm not a huge fan of. I'm also starting to distrust their N1 list a little. It only contains about 3300 words, but I think the N1 test has a lot more than that. I'm definitely supplementing this with a lot of reading and plugging words I don't know into One last really big personal announcement is that I'm going to be a father soon. In about a month from when this podcast is published, I'll be a proud father. That's why I've been a bit non-committal with my study goals recently. I know that as soon as the baby comes my schedule is going to be turned upside down, so for the moment I'm playing it a little cool. But, I will try my best to get a respectable score this December though! Going on Man Dates So, if you've been following the podcast recently, you know that I've been on the hunt for a good conversation partner. Mostly I want to be able to practice Japanese conversation, so that I can get my fluency up. I also wanted to be able to talk to a male speaker, because it seems like I get plenty of exposure to female speakers of Japanese at work and with my wife. This seemed a little awkward at first to tell you the truth. I felt like I was going on a man date, but after the first couple initial meetings with a few nice folks, I've gotten more and more comfortable, and the whole conversation practice thing is getting a lot smoother. My advice is, if you are going to try this at home, by all means start small. Start with a few short meetings where you just introduce yourself to each other and consider a success. This is especially true if you are at the N5/N4 level I think. At this level, it might be pretty difficult to keep a conversation up for more than a few minutes, so take baby steps before going overboard. Am I 'learning' anything? I think one concern that was brought up by a few commentors when I first started talking about this was that they felt like they didn't really learn all that much. This is true to a certain extent. You aren't really going to be able to take home something really tangible from these chats. Chances are pretty good that your chat partner doesn't have a list of vocabulary handy that they want to go over with you. But, you are practicing the basic, but essential skill of speaking. One misconception that I had of language learning (and a lot of people make this mistake) is that I thought if I learned a word, I could use it. So if I read it, put down on a flashcard and drilled to death, I could use it; it was mine. However, that really isn't completely correct. You have to practice speaking the word in order to be able to say the word. That may seem like common sense to some (or most?) people, but it wasn't completely evident to me, and I often see students make the same mistake. So, I wanted to start practicing the skill of speaking and using the language. My main goal behind all of this is to be understood. Not be super ultra correct; not have perfect pronunciation; not drop that bomb 四字熟語 (yojijukugo) or four kanji compounds.

 JLPT BC 70 | Are Non-native Teachers Worthless? | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 28:12

Just a bit of a warning, I went a little over on this podcast. I usually aim for a 10 minute or so podcast, and this one ended up being 30 minutes. Sorry for hogging your earbuds, but it took a while for me to explain everything. This blog post is a shortened down version, so don't worry. I'm still reading through Mr. Itoi's book.  I'm at about page 90, which is about a quarter of the way through the book. There are some hard parts and there are some easier parts. Overall, I think I'm making pretty good progress through the book. I had to switch to reading it in the morning now, because I had a hard time staying awake on the train ride home studying it, but other than that a good book. By the way, if you happen to be reading this book, I made a course of the more difficult words on I have officially started studying N1 vocabulary with Sticky Study for my iPhone. Although this app does not have the most intuitive interface (I found myself several times hitting the wrong button or just plain getting lost in the interface) it does have a really nice look about it. There is something about good aesthetics that just helps you stay motivated longer. I've also been narrowing down my hunt for a conversation partner. I have done a few Skype chats here and there with a few people that I met online. It has been a bit of an awkward first start, as these things are bound to be, but I'm optimistic that some good things will come out of it. Are Non-native teachers completely useless? I was cruising around the web doing some research for JLPT as I often do on Friday night (what else would a super cool married guy be doing?) and I happened upon a forum discussion where someone was talking about how non-native teachers are fairly useless. I've actually had experience with a non-native teacher when I was first studying Japanese a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. I took a year of Japanese college classes before I came to Japan. The classes were arranged so that we took 4 classes a week. 3 of those classes were with native Japanese instructors and the 4th one was with a non-native guy that was suppose to clarify grammar, writing, and other parts of the language that weren't covered in the immersion classes with native teachers. This worked out fairly well except the non-native teacher wasn't all that sharp, and would often forget what he was doing mid-class. In theory though, if he were a little sharper, it would have worked out pretty well. Luckily, a lot of the Japanese instructors knew English fairly well and had mercy on us. Except for one instructor who made it his mission to break us and convince us that all Japanese people are incredibly rude and cruel. He is still the meanest Japanese person I've ever met. But, that is a story for a different time. Advantages of a Non-Native A non-native teacher is able to really give you a clear explanation of the nuances in your native language. This is helpful, because you really want to be clear about particular points of grammar or else you risk making the same mistake over and over again. Also, a clear, solid explaination of grammar, vocabulary, or a particular difficult reading or listening can save you time and frustration. Motivation is one big advantage in my opinion. Whenever I see someone whose Japanese skills are better than mine, I always look upon them with respect. They have must likely studied really hard to get to the level that they are at. It is also encouraging because they act kind of like role models. In other words, if they can do it, I can do it. With a native speaker, it is sometimes to easy to simply say 'well, easy for you, its your native language.' One last advantage is that non-native speakers have a greater ability to be empathetic. They have been through what you are going through so they aren't going to throw the kitchen sink at you and expect you to catch it. They will help you along and be more sympathetic than a native.

 JLPT BC 69 | Finding a Conversation Partner | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 18:48

Still working hard on Mr.Itoi's book. I think some essays are a breeze and others are a complete nightmare of difficult vocabulary and abstract language. Progress overall though has definitely started to speed up. I don't think I'll be finished by the ...

 JLPT BC 68 | Context is Key | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 16:09

Generally speaking, it is usually pretty easy to find a conversation partner in Japan. I mean the whole country is literally filled with native speakers. But, being that I have an incredibly crazy schedule, working 6 days a week, I'm usually not free t...


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